Marlins seek veteran presence to add to young 'pen
Club's talented crop of fresh arms could benefit from having an experienced reliever
MIAMI -- Trading for Carter Capps added another power arm to the bullpen, but it didn't resolve the Marlins' search for a seasoned veteran reliever.
Capps, 23, projects to fit into late-inning setup situations. With a 95-plus-mph fastball, which at times reaches 100, the Marlins aggressively pursued the right-hander. They were able to acquire him from the Mariners for first baseman Logan Morrison at the Winter Meetings.
For all the upside Capps has, what he lacks is a long track record.
Because the Marlins have a comparatively young bullpen, they remain in the market for a veteran reliever.
"I would say we will continue to monitor the market, and if there's an ability for us to upgrade -- our bullpen is fairly young, so if there's an opportunity to maybe add a veteran presence to our 'pen, we will look to do so," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.
After signing free-agent third baseman Casey McGehee on Wednesday, the Marlins finished up their primary search to add more offense. Now the shift turns back to pitching.
A veteran void was created when Chad Qualls signed a two-year deal with the Astros.
Qualls was a bargain for Miami in 2013, initially signing a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invitation. In a young bullpen, he provided experience and leadership. He also backed up his words by producing. In 66 games, he had a 2.61 ERA.
The Marlins were hopeful to bring Qualls back, but he tested the free-agent market and opted for Houston.
The bullpen also was thinned when Miami non-tendered Ryan Webb, who signed a two-year deal recently with the Orioles.
Miami has had a good track record of signing veteran relievers looking to resurrect their careers on Minor League deals.
The Marlins will be searching for another arm or two before Spring Training gets underway on Feb. 16 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
Starting pitching is the strength of the organization. In '13, the rotation was backed by a strong bullpen.
Miami's relievers posted a 3.42 ERA, which ranked as the 11th best in the Majors. As a team, the Marlins made great strides after opening with a 14-41 record. From June 1 until the end of the season, the bullpen also improved. In that span, the bullpen's ERA was 3.02, which ranked fifth in the Majors.
Bridging the seventh and eighth innings to closer Steve Cishek will continue to be a priority.
In his first full season as closer, Cishek posted a 2.33 ERA and converted 34 of 36 save chances.
Internal candidates to replace Qualls in the eighth inning are Capps and A.J. Ramos. The two were rookies last season, and they turned in respectable numbers.
Lefty Mike Dunn was a workhorse last year, appearing in 75 games while logging a 2.66 ERA. Dan Jennings is another left-handed option.
An intriguing candidate is right-hander Arquimedes Caminero, who also is a power arm but is relatively inexperienced. Chris Hatcher, another hard-throwing right-hander, also has big league experience.
Ramos' 86 strikeouts were the third most of all rookie relievers, and Capps' 66 punchouts ranked seventh.
Capps is mostly a fastball-slider pitcher, but he is working on his changeup.
"If a guy knows you can't throw [an offspeed] pitch for a strike, he's going to have a field day," Capps said. "If they know a fastball is coming, at this level, they'll just guess which side of the plate. If they're right, they're going to hit it hard. So you really have to throw [offspeed] pitches for strikes."